New Marriott Award Pricing
The wait is finally over! After what felt like an eternity, we finally have details on the new Marriott Award pricing, including (not so good) changes to one of my favourite travel hacks – the hotel and air packages. This news came all at once yesterday, including some info on the changes to the SPG Amex card in Canada (finally). While that news wasn’t great, I would say the Marriott changes are…. ok, for now.
Wait… You’re saying the St Regis Maldives for 60,000 Marriott Reward points per night is just ok?! You’re crazy! While I admit I was completely wowed at first, I’ve started to realize some sad truths about this new program, and have affirmed why I was only cautiously optimistic when Marriott announced a bunch of their changes to the combined program a couple of months ago.
For anyone who’s been living under a rock since yesterday, you can find all of the new award pricing in an easy to use search tool found here
New Marriott Award Pricing – The Good
First, there are going to be some really great redemption options for hotel stays booked between August 1st and the end of the year. Marriott has introduced a new category 8, which will cost 85,000 Marriott Reward points per night, but that category doesn’t come into play until 2019.
What that means is future category 8 hotels can be booked as category 7 for only 60,000 Marriott Reward points, or 240,000 points for a five night stay (5th night free on award stays). Best of all perhaps, is this also includes the select ‘all suite’ properties that used to cost twice the normal SPG points for a base room, such as The St Regis Maldives, St Regis Bora Bora, etc.
Also good is that the majority of properties are staying the same or going down in price. There are 6,300 properties worldwide that will cost just 35,000 points or lower, which is the maximum value of the new free-night certificate included with the SPG cards in Canada.
New Marriott Award Pricing – The Bad
This period between August and December is going to present some really incredible opportunities, but I don’t think anyone has pointed out that it might be too good. In all my time travel hacking, I’ve never seen such a magical way to get value out of points.
Demand is going to be unprecedented on August 1st, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the website crashed with 5 hour hold times over the phone. I would expect rooms at the truly aspirational properties over peak dates to be gone within minutes, and I wouldn’t even be shocked to learn of some underground black market where people are selling award redemption bookings (definitely against the program terms, by the way).
Also, while hotels are probably not allowed to block certain room categories, I’m almost sure this will be done at some properties.
Perhaps worst of all, 2019 is being overshadowed by this short period between August and the end of the year, at which point prices will go up with variable pricing (read: revenue pricing) coming into play at all properties worldwide. You can learn more about all of those changes from my post a few months ago.
New Marriott Award Pricing – My Strategy
I think a lot of people are looking towards August 1st, knowing they will be able to book award stays with the new rates without having the required number of points (this is a really generous policy and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it removed under the new program). While great in theory, I think it’s going to be a gong show on August 1st, to say the least, and would encourage a better technique to ensure you get what you want.
If you know where you want to stay now, just book a fully flexible paid rate. Make sure it’s in the room category that’s available on points (with Marriott that’s the most basic room category at all properties, as far as I know), and change it to an award stay anytime after the program changes, but before you enter the cancellation period (this can be as far away as 3 months at some high-demand properties over peak periods).
Keep in mind some hotels may want a deposit during booking for their busiest times, but that should be fully refundable if you change it to an award booking (I would double or triple check if the deposit is large that it will be fully-refundable, and make sure you’re able to float that deposit for a couple of months while you wait to convert your stay to an award booking).
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I have booked the St Regis Maldives over Christmas for 7 nights – available to the highest bidder (just kidding – Brad and I will be staying). I just need to set a reminder before October 25th to avoid paying a $36,000USD deposit….
New Marriott Award Pricing Bottom Line
It’s been a busy week with Marriott news, with most bloggers praising the new program, or more specifically, the new program between August and the end of 2018.
If you’re planning to book a bunch of hotel stays with the reduced award pricing (as you should), I would strongly encourage you to consider booking a flexible paid rate now, and changing it to an award stay after August 1st when the new rates come into play. If you wait until then, I suspect long hold times and you likely won’t get your ideal dates – demand is going to be insane!
This is just an introduction post as Kyle and I plan to strategize some articles when he returns from his family trip to Europe to help people navigate all of the changes, including the hotel and air packages we love so much. Look for a lot of great articles coming up over the next couple of weeks, but until then, get booking!
What do you think of the new Marriott award pricing? Any plans to take advantage of what could be the greatest travel hack of the decade?
(featured image courtesy of Starwood)